12 June 2023
The following article is authored by Stephanie Habak from Black Dog Institute and was first published on SPHERE. This event was part of the 2023 Vivid Ideas' Human Nature series.
‘The more we collaborate and learn from each other, the more we can achieve’ said Maggie Beer AO, beginning this year’s VIVID Ideas event, ‘Nourishing Health’.
Gliding across the stage, Maggie revealed her call to action, inviting the audience – a mix of academics, policymakers, managers and practitioners from the aged care sector, consumers, and carers – to discuss the relationship between good food, wellbeing, and healthy ageing. The veteran chef, author, restaurateur, and providore introduced ‘The Maggie Beer Foundation’, a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for current and future generations of older people through food. ‘People as they age, deserve to have beautiful food everyday’, she said to a crowd of enthralled participants.
Organised and hosted by the SPHERE Knowledge Translation (KT) Strategic Platform, this event involved experts from the SPHERE Age and Ageing Clinical Academic Group and the UTS Disability Research Network, including lived experience advisors. Alongside Maggie Beer AO, these experts shared their knowledge of food, memory, and the ageing process with VIVID attendees, including the impact of swallowing difficulties on food consumption. This event was part of the 2023 Vivid Ideas’ Human Nature Series to challenge the natural ways of thinking by exploring the ‘new normal’ across sex, relationships, body politics, and more.
NICM Health Research Institute’s cognitive neuroscientist, Associate Professor Genevieve Steiner-Lim, emphasised the importance of the brain’s neurological framework on the connection between food, smell, and memory.
"Things like scent go straight to the brain’s smell centre - the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, which explains why the smell of something can immediately trigger a memory or emotion."
In reference to aged care homes, the panel discussed the value of aroma in memory activation and salivation, suggesting that food aroma – as it wafts through a nursing home – can entice older people to seek out food, increasing the enjoyment around mealtimes.
Professor Bronwyn Hemsley, a speech pathologist with research experience in swallowing disabilities and 3D printed foods, spearheaded a discussion around dysphagia, food moulds, and the visual appeal of minced-moist food. Bringing Maggie Beer AO and Uniting Chef, Brendon Gakowski, into the conversation, the panel critiqued current best practice regarding food preparation and procedures in aged care homes for older people with swallowing difficulties. Ajay Varshney, a consumer council member of the SPHERE Age and Ageing Clinical Academic Group, highlighted the limited diversity in aged care meals, specifically for older people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with strong family ties to varied cuisines, spices, and flavours.
Moderated by Professor Katherine Boydell, director of the SPHERE KT Strategic Platform, alongside Associate Professor Ann Dadich and Dr Barbara Doran, ‘Nourishing Health’ was a vital discussion about how profoundly a good meal and good company can positively impact our physical and mental health, supporting healthy ageing. All proceeds generated by ticket sales were donated to The Maggie Beer Foundation.